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A ‘Revisionist’ Vatican Nativity Scene

Margaret Galitzin

This year the Vatican placed the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, not in a manger in Bethlehem. Also there is no donkey, no oxen, no shepherds from the fields of Bethlehem who make their way to adore the newborn Christ Child. When the larger-than-life crèche scene was unveiled in St. Peter’s Square on Christmas Eve, onlookers found a completely different scenario than what has been used for centuries to picture Christmas.

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The Vatican Nativity set in St. Joseph's house in Nazareth

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What they found was the Child with the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph in a rather barren and dilapidated carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Behind Our Lady is a woman – a midwife or relative? We don’t know.

The “Kings” are still there, but they do not wear crowns, as they are traditionally represented, or display any royal symbol of their dignity. They are plainly dressed, like any simple man in the streets of that time could be.

A goat with droopy ears, no longer an innocent lamb, rests near the crib. Two angels hover above the scene, two others stand on a balcony over the carpenter workshop. One side of the shop is flanked with a covered patio; the other presents the inside of a pub with its hearth. Several persons are pictured in the scenes going about their daily life and work.

The news of the shift from Bethlehem to Nazareth came in an official statement some days before Christmas from the State Department of the Vatican, which organizes and builds the giant Nativity scene. It noted that the new setting was inspired by two verses in St. Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 1:24 and 1:25), as rendered in the New Catholic Bible translation: “When Joseph woke up, he did as the Angel of God ordered and took Mary into his house. Without them knowing each other, a child was born and he called his name Jesus” (“Vatican Nativity does away with the Manger," The Telegraph online, December 17, 2007).

Doesn’t the Vatican know that the Gospel of Matthew goes on to say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as does the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, which narrates the journey to Bethlehem and says that there Mary wrapped her Son “in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn” (2:7).

Nonetheless, progressivist revisionist scholars pretend that the Evangelist Matthew differs in the nativity narrations and tells that Jesus was born at Nazareth in the house of St. Joseph.

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A second set of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was set up under the stage
This would seem to be the way the Vatican now interprets Scriptures since a spokesman announced in the release, “It was time for a change, and a return to St. Matthew’s Gospel” (ibid).

Apparently, the idea of depicting Our Lord’s birth in Joseph’s home in Nazareth caused quite a stir among the Italian press and public. Therefore, plans changed a bit. The carpenter shop was stripped of most of its tools, some straw was quickly put in the crib.

And on Christmas Eve, the night of the unveiling, someone managed to place below the stage three figures - another Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the typical crib of Bethlehem.

Therefore, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano could report that at least one of the Nativity scenes in St. Peter’s Square was “set in Bethlehem” (“Vatican Nativity scene places Christ birth in Bethlehem,” Catholic News Service, December 26, 2007). Later, after the unveiling event, the three traditional figures in the “second” crib scene were removed from the square.

So, we are faced with the revolutionary move to shift Christ’s birth from Bethlehem to Nazareth as the central scene in the Vatican Nativity this year. It is really shocking.

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The three-room setting for the Nativity in Nazareth in St. Peter's Square
Doing this the Vatican is siding with the progressivist school of historical criticism that claims Christ is called “Jesus of Nazareth” because that is where he was born. Many of these progressivist scholars also deny that a census was ordered by the Roman Emperor and consider it as fiction or a blunder. They go so far as to affirm that the circumstances related by St. Luke connected with Our Lord’s Nativity are contrary to history. In short, the whole Nativity story would be an historical imposture. St. Luke would have falsified the data to pretend that Christ was born in Bethlehem in order to present Him as the Messiah, since the fulfillment of the prophecy supposes that He was born in Bethlehem.

I wonder if such a decision to place Christ’s birth in Nazareth in ordinary settings is part of the Vatican plan to satisfy the Jews, who deny that Our Lord is the Messiah.

Given the public reaction against moving the Nativity scene to Nazareth, Vatican officials, trying to avoid embarrassment, said the shift underscored the idea that Jesus was born not just in a single place, but everywhere and for everyone (ibid.).

That is a lame excuse, in my opinion, to impose the abandonment of the traditional stable-and-manger scenario in order to depict Our Lord Jesus Christ being born in St. Joseph's house in Nazareth.

It is another sad symbolic action of auto-demolition made by the Vatican in order to accomplish the progressivist agenda. This time, the truth being destroyed is nothing less than Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Messiah…


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Posted on January 1, 2008

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